Over the past five years, SPACES Monster Drawing Rally has become the region's most exciting, can't-miss visual art event of the year. For one night only, this Saturday, April 11, from 6 to 9 p.m., more than 100 local and regional artists will be drawing live at SPACES. This family-friendly, live drawing event serves as an annual benefit for the nonprofit organization.
"Monster Drawing Rally puts our audience members in close contact with the artistic process," explains SPACES Executive Director Christina Vassallo. "It's happy chaos, with over 100 artists making new work, 400 people watching, and a bunch of kids getting inspired and being supplied with art materials."
Each artist draws for an hour, with about 30 to 35 artists working at tables lined throughout the exhibition space at any given moment. SPACES provides artists with basic materials and does its best to handle any specific requests. Each hour, a new group of artists begins. This rotation makes for a fast-paced, exciting evening.
"It's a good way to introduce yourself to SPACES and start your collection, or add to it, with some of the region's most prominent artists," explains SPACES Board President Thomas Starinsky. "This is the most democratic way to purchase art that you'll love, with all works priced at $75 and sold on a first-come-first-served basis."
The best part for the audience is the ability to purchase work that was created in front of your eyes. Any work bought at the MDR is a guaranteed conversation starter. Not only do you get a new, one-of-a-kind work of art; you get a story to go along with it. Thus, the work is a relic of the experience itself.
However, there is one small catch: Visitors cannot purchase work until it is completed and hung on the wall. Whoever gets to the wall first may purchase the piece outright. If multiple people want that particular object, potential buyers must draw straws for the opportunity to purchase it. While many works will be available throughout the evening, many more will be gone as soon as they go on the wall.
In this way, Monster Drawing Rally is simultaneously cooperative and competitive for both the artists and the audience.
With each work being priced at a flat rate, artists are put on an even playing field. While the environment is extremely cooperative, this mutual price point inherently creates competition, with each artist striving to capture the attention and adoration of hundreds of potential buyers.
Meanwhile, the audience competes to find and purchase their favorite work each hour. It's common to see groups hovering around a particular artist or watching intently while circling the room.
The Monster Drawing Rally gives viewers a rare opportunity to interact with the artists during the creative process.
Furthermore, each artist gets the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. Normally, most artists produce their works alone like hermits in their studio; only revealing the results after the process is complete. SPACES' Monster Drawing Rally allows viewers to witness the whole process from beginning to end, and allows artists to feel like rock stars for a night.
"Monster Drawing Rally is one of my favorite events of the year," says Dr. Jon Logan, one of Cleveland's most passionate art patrons, who supports this year's MDR as a Gizmo Sponsor. "While seeing (and buying) the end product is always great, Monster Drawing Rally, unlike most other events, is special because of its emphasis on the artists' processes. Where else can you go, and in one evening interact with 100 artists being creative, learning and collaborating with each other and producing art? It's an amazing night."
The Monster Drawing Rally, which originated with Southern Exposure (SoEx) in San Francisco, has become an annual fundraising event for SPACES. Despite the title of the event, organizers are very lenient in their definition of the term "drawing."
"Our friends at Southern Exposure in San Francisco had started Monster Drawing Rally years earlier and had been lending out the well-tested model to other artist-centered organizations," explains SPACES former Executive Director Christopher Lynn. "Hundreds of artists could cooperate, audiences loved it, artists loved it, and it wasn't asking for expensive donations of artwork, just an hour of an artist's time. Even the definition of 'drawing' was flexible to include many different mediums and disciplines."
"With a few tweaks to meet SPACES' needs and audience expectations, we launched the Cleveland edition of MDR in 2011," continues Lynn. "We had performance art, drawing, printmaking, painting and others creating 'drawings.' I had never hosted an event that had 100-percent positive feedback until MDR. Artists wanted to come back, audiences were asking when the next one was, and it was a great fundraiser for SPACES."
Every year, SPACES invites guest curators to select ten artists each for MDR. This year's guest curators are William Busta, Hector Castellanos, Don Harvey, Mimi Kato, Margaret Kimora, Angelica Pozo, Shari Wilkins and Justin Will. The remainder of the field is filled with SPACES' staff picks and selected through an open call.
Children are invited to participate in the fun at the Li'l Monster Drawing Rally, a section for children age 17 and under to draw and display their work at SPACES for the evening or weekend.After seeing so many talented kids over the years, SPACES is debuting a new Teen Wolf drawing section for a select group of about 10 to 15 especially talented kids to create and display work throughout the evening. (Kids' work is not for sale.)
Admission is $5 (and free for SPACES members/Season Pass holders and children age 17 and under).
SPACES Monster Drawing Rally is Saturday, April 11 from 6 to 10 p.m. (Live drawing from 6 to 9 p.m.). Any unsold work will remain on view and for sale on Sunday, Apr. 12 from noon to 5 p.m.
(Full Disclosure: I'll be participating as one of the artists for the fourth consecutive year.)
(SPACES) 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216-621-2314, spacesgallery.org